The Low Rate of Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Kediri Regency Election
Every Indonesian citizen has their right to participate in the General Election including Persons with disabilities. They have equal political rights as stipulated in Law Number 8 of 2016 concerning Persons with Disabilities. Besides having the right to vote and be elected as public officials, people with special needs may have the opportunity to be party members even building political parties.
Unfortunately, the participation of voters from among the disabled in various regions is still relatively low, one of them is in Kediri Regency, East Java. According to data from the General Election Commission (KPU) of East Java Province, during the last election or 2020, Kediri Regency is in 15th rank or the lowest 5 in terms of participation of voters with disabilities. Kediri Regency has 23.53% which is higher than Malang, Blitar, Pacitan and Jember Regencies. While the largest participation area is Sidoarjo Regency with 60.38%.
Totally, Permanent Voter List (DPT) with disabilities of East Java Province in 2020 are 47,934 people who spread across 19 Regencies and Cities. However, those who use their right to vote are only 12,029, or 25% of the total number. This total number has decreased comparing to the Election in 2019 with 39% voters of the total DPT 47,426 people.
"There are two factors causing the minimal role of disabilities in Kediri Regency: internal voters and external factors or organizers," said Ali Mashudi, Coordinator of the Prevention, Community Participation and Public Relations Division of Kediri Regency Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu), Tuesday, January 10, 2023.
From the internal factors, based on his poiont of view, many people with disabilities feel ashamed and think their voices are useless. In addition, they also find it difficult and inconvenient if they have to come to the polling station (TPS). In fact, some families do not want their family members to be registered as voters.
Meanwhile, from external factors, many TPS officers did not enter data on voters with disabilities. In addition, officers do not categorize voters with special needs in the disability group. This is exacerbated by the fact that several polling stations have not implemented the disability-friendly concept. Therefore, they feel reluctant and difficult using their voting rights.
There was an obstacle happened when it was about going to vote, one of which was experienced by Umi Habibah. On the way heading to the TPS location, she had to face the access roads climbing a steep downhill. Umi, as an active wheelchair user, struggled to climb the rocking stairs. In fact that she was not strong enough to support her body weight, Umi then almost slipped. Luckily, she survived because her husband was right behind her, then held her body so she wouldn't fall.
"This incident is the experience that can be shared to my fellow persons with disabilities, as well as criticizing the election administration," said the woman who is now Chairperson of Kediri Regency Disability Association (PDKK).
He recounted this experience in whatsapp group, as well as during regular meetings with other members. He also actively keeps informing Bawaslu and KPU if there are polling stations that are not disability-friendly. In fact that this happens because wheelchair users often do not have access, steep stairs, narrow polling stations, and muddy roads that make it difficult to pass.
He hopes that there will be improvements in Simultaneous Election process which will be held in 2024. Even though the number of voters is not amount, persons with disabilities are also part of the citizens whose democratic rights must be fulfilled.
"Regardless of our circumstances, persons with disabilities need the same opportunity in the eyes of the law," said Umi.
This mother of 2 children leads an organization with 300 members spread across all sub-districts in Kediri Regency. She realized that most disabled voters feel marginalized and their voices are meaningless.
However, Umi does not give up on continuing to encourage her friends with disabilities to use their right to vote. In addition, she also continues to coordinate with the government and election organizers.
The total number of DPT for the disability group in Kediri Regency is now 3950 people. Ringinrejo sub-district is the area with the highest number of 253 disabled voters, while Gampengrejo has the least number of 49 voters. The majority of DPT are 1460 persons with physical disabilities, 1226 sensory disabilities, 947 mental disabilities and 317 intellectual disabilities.
The chairman of the General Election Commission (KPU) of Kediri Regency, Ninik Sunarmi stated that she had tried her best to make every voter would not lose their right to vote. She and her team actively conduct socialization with several agencies and disability groups in Kediri Regency.
In addition, she also coordinates with all government levels starting from sub-districts to villages to conduct disability-friendly elections. Deciding certain places that are reachable and make voters with disabilities to get easier access to vote is a priority for KPU as the organizer of the election.
"We communicate regularly and listen to aspirations from PDKK friends and other disability communities so that the next general election is more disability-friendly," he said when met at his office Wednesday, January 18, 2023.
KPU of Kediri Regency guarantees the available facilities for voters with special needs at every polling station. This includes the holding of the 2024 Simultaneous Elections. The agenda for this democratic party will elect public officials at the executive and legislative levels, starting from President, Governors, Mayors, Regents, as well as People's Representative Council (DPR), Regional People's Representative Council (DPRD), and Regional Representative Council (DPD).
The big agenda in this political year was conceptualized to make it easier for disabled voters in Kediri Regency. A special road will be made for wheelchair users and special election card templates will be provided for the blind.
The chairman of KPU, who has been officially in charge since 2019, admitted that she continues to socialize with the Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) regarding the importance of using voting rights for people with disabilities. Even so, there are some obstacles that must be resolved immediately. For example, the administration of records that have not been appropriate and some voters who are still reluctant to come to TPS.
This incomplete data collection is now being a problem that must also be faced by Sri Pancawati, Head of Social Rehabilitation and Social Service Division of Kediri Regency. The delay in updating and the accuracy in the calculations also makes it difficult for Social Service to monitor the progress of people with disabilities, especially the things that are needed when they participate in general elections.
Social services plan to update data on persons with disabilities in 2023 digitally. Approximately two hundred social workers will be deployed to collect data directly door-to-door. Recording will be done using an application and sent directly to the database of Kediri Regency Social Service.
Meanwhile, Mifathur Rozaq, Commissioner of KPU for East Java Province, said that KPU at the provincial level will maximize coordination and monitoring so that each region implements the policy according to regulations. For voters with disabilities, he has tried to collaborate with several disability communities and absorb existing aspirations. Several suggestions were applied in the form of voter education and fulfillment of facilities and infrastructure.
"Every disability right will be accordingly fulfilled by KPU, they even have the right to be parts of the organizers," he said during an interview on Thursday, January 19, 2023.
One of the efforts to include disability groups as organizers is by creating SKPP (Participatory Supervisory Cadre School). This training involves all elements of society including persons with disabilities.
The Division of Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu) of East Java also said the same thing, represented by Aang Kunafi in the Socialization of Participatory Election Supervision for Disabled Groups, Mass Organizations, and Mass Media in Surabaya in 2022. He pushed for the fulfillment of all the facilities needed by voters with disabilities.
In terms of data collection, TPS officials must be observant so that all persons with disabilities can use their right to vote. He really regretted if violations occurred, such as voter registration not being registered or polling stations not providing facilities for people with special needs.
“Each polling station must have a way for them to get to the poll stage, and be guided on how to use their voting rights. That's important to note," he said.
The total number of persons with disabilities in Kediri Regency is now around 4000-5000 people. This means that this figure does not reach 1% of the population of Kediri, which is 1,673,158 people. However, this should not be the reason for the existence of disabilities as a marginalized society that does not have the right to vote.